The Sketch: Stamina and energy... the audience, I mean

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The Independent Online

"Prime Minister, can I ask you to draw your remarks to a close?" That was one sentence we were never going to hear from the chair. It was after nearly an hour of speaking that Gordon began to lay out his vision for the NHS and nostrils round the hall flared like blowholes. His people stayed with him, though, right through to the end.

He walked in with very little preparation and the hall rose to its feet. He passed through the crowd to stand on the platform, soaking it up. His enormous sense of entitlement was soothed and bathed in the healing power of other people's admiration. And they wouldn't sit down. When he gestured to start, the applause flared up again.

As it faded, he tried to start his speech, only for the clapping to amplify, with cheers and some whooping. It was charming. They so want to believe. Everyone wants to believe. I quite want to believe myself (it gives extra energy to the disappointment, when it comes).

The first third of the speech was pretty good in that it was recognisably a speech. He began with that great line he has about being "humbled". Who knows, maybe it's true. To some extent you make yourself up when you become Prime Minister. He sees the value in humility and it works; he becomes more popular, humility becomes a habit.

In his new, soft, inclusive, humble voice, he told us the familiar stories about his background, his schooling, his friends, his father the pastor and a Bible quote (not "the poor will always be with us"). "This is who I am," he said more than once. Personal revelation. Tick that box.

Then there were more boxes. Strength. Pride. United Kingdom. Countryside. The NHS, our island story. Tick, tick, tick, tick. Joy through work? Not this year; maybe after the election.

And then it got out of hand. Having run out of personal anecdotes he went into the laundry list of government. The stamina on display was admirable, the energy, the persistence – his audience simply excelled itself. It was gruelling but they did not falter. Reliable applause followed each of his points.

Safe children, the earnings link to pensions, district nurses, full employment, minimum wages, affordable houses, handheld computers for the police, stronger border forces, Tony Blair ... it all came tumbling out.

He's going to be busy. And I've got a nasty feeling he's going to want us to be busy alongside him. There's going to be a lot of obligating in Brown's Britain. He will obligate us to do things. I don't thrill to it. We all have obligations to each other, he says.

There was one particularly sinister assertion: "We must unlock all the talents of all the people." That gives him and his government unprecedented, almost papal, access to our most private lives.

He's going to be constantly fighting for hard-working people who play by the rules and who understand the obligations we all have. But what about those of us who want to sit by the river, watching the colours in the stream and minding our own business?

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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